In one of my native tongues, there's an idiomatic expression, the semi-literal translation of which is "the 'being close' of yours won't shoot the hare". In another, there's something along the lines of "one can't strike down a bird with an 'almost'".
Both expressions are used to comment on someone's failure followed by a presentation of an excuse aiming to explain said failure as being so close to a success that it might as well be regarded as the such.
Expressing disapproval by the observers can then be carried out by pointing out that being close to success or almost succeeding isn't actually being successful.
I.e. one doesn't get the hare by shooting close to it and one doesn't get the bird by almost striking it down. The animals will most likely take off and the only thing one sees is their butts decreasing in size.
Correspondingly, getting a score of 499, when the number required to pass is 500 or more, can be seen as being close to a success but still, strictly regarded, admitting the examinee to the same group as other failures. If such person tries to point out that they were really, really close to passing, a disapproving recipient could point out that they'll still have to retake the exam, independently of how close to a success they were (c.f. by how little they have failed).
What is the idiomatic way to express that in English, if such exists?